The following contains general advice and links to reliable websites that may be of interest or use. The internet is a valuable resource for academic study and the number of sites of interest to the philosophy student is growing. In particular, there are many specialised sites that will be of interest to those working in a specific area. You are encouraged to seek these out yourself. Remember, though, not all websites are reliable!
Remember too that plagiarism is a serious disciplinary offence. All internet sources used in your research should be properly referenced as you would a book or essay. In the case of web pages, cite the URL and the date accessed. Webpages have authors too - do not forget to give them appropriate credit for their work.
Good advice on essay writing can be found on the following sites:
- David Bain's advice on writing essays
- Advice for first and second years from Paul Brownsey
- Peter Horban's advice on how to write an essay
- Jim Pryor's guidelines on writing an essay
- Peter Smith on developing a an appropriate writing style for Philosophy
- Peter Smith on tackling essay questions
- Jimmy Lenman (ex-GU, now Sheffield) on how to write a crap essay
- Style guide for referencing, etc. (from the Chicago Manual of Style)
Advanced Academic Writing
Advanced Academic Writing is a website to enable you to hone your writing skills. It was designed by Katie Grant, and is now running in a wide range of Subjects at Glasgow. The website assists and doesn't assess. Website administrators can see who has been onto the site, but not how people have fared in the exercises.
If a student makes endless mistakes, there is no record of this. You are strongly encouraged to try out the site, and see if you can learn anything from it. It is a fundamental requirement in philosophy that you write clearly, concisely and correctly. Not only will this help whenever you write something, it will also be important in deciding the marks you obtain.
Sitting a Philosophy Exam
Advice from Adam Rieger:
1. Aim for clarity. Do not try to be flowery, or literary, or sophisticated. Never worry that what you are writing seems too simple. Reason in small steps.
2. Answer the question. Maybe you have a prepared answer on the topic, but you must show how what you are writing is relevant to the question as actually posed. Read the question carefully.
3. Justify your claims. In philosophy you are not generally judged on whether or not what you say is true. (There's not enough agreement to make this practical.) Rather you are judged on how well you argue for whatever you do say. So never worry that what you say is controversial, disagrees with the lecturer, etc. But make sure that you have reasons for your conclusions, and state them as clearly as possible.
4. Be honest. Very often you'll be defending some position, and you'll know there's a strong objection to it. Don't be afraid of explaining the objection, even if you're not sure you have a decisive answer to it. Doing philosophy is not like arguing a case in a law court. It's better to be honest, rather than merely assembling what looks like the strongest possible case for one side by omitting all the awkward arguments.
5. Show you've done some work. It's a very good idea to make it clear that you've been attending the lectures and/or doing some of the recommended reading. Demonstrate that you've understood the main ideas presented in the course. Launching off with your own ideas is dangerous as (i) the ideas may not be as good as you think (it's not easy to produce good original philosophy under exam conditions) and (ii) even if what you produce is actually brilliant, it's possible the examiner (who may be tired, and will have a lot of scripts to mark) won't realise. (The examiner is more likely to have a high opinion of your own ideas if you've already won his/her confidence by a clear exposition of some of the standard views on the topic.)
Having said that, you should not be reluctant to use any original arguments or ideas which occur to you. You will get credit for any original thought, but it's not necessary to be original to get a good mark, and you shouldn't strive for originality for its own sake.
6. Don't be too superficial. Sometimes there will be many arguments you want to consider: in a short essay you are probably better off treating a small number in some depth, rather than giving a very brief account of all of them.
7. Revise carefully. Here’s a suggestion for how to revise: make summaries of the courses, as concisely as possible, which do this: (i) define the main ideas and (ii) give the main arguments for and against each position.
Further advice from David Bain can be found here.
Encyclopedias & Dictionaries:
- The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (accessible on campus)
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (UK mirror site)
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Philosophy Pages' Philosophical Dictionary
- Dictionary of the Philosophy of Mind
- The Oxford English Dictionary (accessible on campus)
Gateway Sites / Metasites
- Philosophy @ Large
- The GU Library (don't forget that there are many e-texts available here)
- The Philosopher's Index (the main online Philosophy bibliography - requires ATHENS login)
- Noesis (a search engine for open access Philosophy)
Online Texts & Papers
- JSTOR (an essential collection of journals - available on campus)
- PhilPapers (a new (2009) site that attempts to offer a comprehensive listing of online books and papers)
- Early Modern Texts (classic texts in a modern style from Jonathan Bennett)
- The Perseus Project (mainly ancient philosophy)
- The Classics Archive (from MIT)
- Bartleby (a general e-text site with a decent selection of Philosophy)
- Philosophy: an online resource guide